Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter
The United States Mint introduced the American Women Quarters Program, a program honoring the accomplishments of exceptional women in American history. This visionary program represents a major step toward recognizing the often-overlooked achievements of women who have shaped the country.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker is one of the strong women featured in this program. Her contributions to women’s rights and medical advancements have challenged long-standing traditions and opened opportunities for change and progress.
As we delve into the life story of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and explore the significance of her inclusion in the American Women Quarters Program, we gain insight into the impact of her pioneering spirit. Dr. Walker’s life shows how resilient and determined women defied societal constraints. She contributed to change for America and the world because of her life and what she fought for.
The Incredible Life of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
Born in Oswego, New York, on November 26, 1832, Mary Edwards Walker was raised by parents who encouraged education and equality. Her parents encouraged her to be a free thinker, not conforming to society and its norms.
From an early age, Walker defied societal expectations and pursued her passion for medicine. In 1855, she achieved a significant milestone by becoming one of the first female surgeons in the United States and the first female U.S. Army surgeon, graduating from Syracuse Medical College with top honors. Her determination to excel in a male-dominated field laid the foundation for her medical career.
During the American Civil War, Walker wanted to help others, which led to her volunteering as a nurse, assisting wounded soldiers on the front lines. Because of her gender, she was prevented from helping as a surgeon in the war. Walker settled as a nurse instead, ensuring her medical knowledge was used to its full potential.
Captured by Confederate troops in April 1864, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker spent four months as a prisoner of war at Castle Thunder prison near Richmond, refusing to wear women’s clothing. A fun fact is that she also wore pants under her wedding dress on her wedding day! After her release as a prisoner in August 1864, she continued her medical work as an assistant surgeon for the Ohio 52nd Infantry and at hospitals in Louisville and Clarksville.
Her courage in the face of adversity earned her recognition and respect all across the United States. In recognition of her exceptional service during the war, Walker became the first and only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the United States. Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1916, but the government revoked it, and President Jimmy Carter restored it in 1977.
Beyond the Battlefield
Mary Edwards Walker’s passion for medicine and her desire to help others did not end with the American Civil War. After the war, Walker continued her medical practice and became an advocate for women’s rights. She believed that women should have the same opportunities as men in all aspects of life, and she did everything she could to break down barriers that prevented women from achieving their full potential.
Her choice of clothing, specifically pants, and her advocacy for “dress reform” often landed her in trouble. This is especially depicted by her 1870 arrest in New Orleans for wearing clothes typically worn by men. Walker stood firm in her decisions and defended her clothing choices, stating her right to self-expression.
Walker also tried to register to vote in 1871 despite facing rejection due to her gender. Walker was undeterred and argued that women had the right to vote under the U.S. Constitution. Walker kept her principles in the face of criticism for her clothes from mainstream suffragists, and she testified in support of the cause before the US House of Representatives in 1912 and 1914.
Walker’s commitment to social justice and equality continued until she died in 1919 at the age of 86. She left behind a legacy of courage, determination, and compassion that continues to inspire people today. In recognition of her contributions to medicine, women’s rights, and social justice, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor in 1982.
The American Women Quarters Program
The American Women Quarters Program was introduced by the United States Mint in 2022. The program’s goal is to honor the achievements of 20 exceptional American women who have made significant contributions to the country’s history and culture. The American Women Quarters Program is far from the traditional designs of U.S. quarters, as it’s a series of coins highlighting women’s accomplishments across different fields. These coins are also the perfect collectors items for coin collectors.
Each year, starting in 2022, the program features up to five new designs to highlight the extraordinary stories of these women. At the end of the program, a total of 20 coins will be released to honor these women.
The women who will be celebrated on the 2024 quarters are:
- Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray: an Episcopal priest, writer, activist, and lawyer
- Patsy Takemoto Mink: the first woman of color to hold a congressional seat
- Dr. Mary Edwards Walker: a pioneering physician, war hero, dress reform advocate, and advocate for women’s rights
- Celia Cruz: The most well-known Latin artist of the 20th century, a Cuban-American singer, and cultural icon
- Zitkala-Ša: a writer, composer, political activist, and educator
Through the American Women Quarters Program, the United States Mint hopes to spread awareness of the contributions these women have made to society and how they have contributed to the country’s progress. These 2024 quarters are a powerful tribute to these 20 women and will be an important reminder to all Americans of how the past has shaped the present.
The Selection of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker for the 2024 Quarter
The decision to honor Dr. Mary Edwards Walker in the American Women Quarters Program is to honor her legacy and impact on American society. As a pioneering female physician, war hero, and advocate for women’s rights, Walker is the perfect example of courage, resilience, and determination that defines the American spirit.
Because of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker never giving in and fighting for her rights, society has accepted women wearing men’s clothing. Women are no longer defined by their clothing!
The Coin Design
The Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter, part of the American Women Quarters Program, showcases a design that pays tribute to Walker’s life and activism. The design of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter incorporates symbolic elements that reflect her remarkable life and achievements.
Let’s observe the coin’s obverse and reverse sides and what each side symbolizes.
The Obverse Design
The obverse (heads) side of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter features a timeless portrait of George Washington, meticulously crafted by Laura Gardin Fraser. George Washington’s portrait represents his legacy as a founding father and leader.
The obverse side of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter includes the following inscriptions:
- “IN GOD WE TRUST”
The artist responsible for the obverse design of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter is Laura Gardin Fraser.
The Reverse Design
On the reverse (tails) side of the quarter, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker holds her pocket surgical kit, adorned with the Medal of Honor on her uniform and a surgeon’s pin at her collar. Dr. Walker was known to continue wearing the Medal of Honor until her death, signifying her commitment to duty and service. The left side of the design showcases intricate details of the Medal of Honor, further emphasizing the significance of Walker’s heroic achievements.
The reverse side of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter has the following inscriptions:
- “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”
- “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
- “25 CENTS”
- “DR. MARY EDWARDS WALKER”
- “MEDAL OF HONOR 1865”
The Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter is minted at both the Denver and Philadelphia Mints. For the reverse design, the talented medallic artist Phebe Hemphill captured the essence of Dr. Walker’s incredible achievements.
The elegantly designed quarter honors Dr. Walker’s extraordinary life and the causes she advocated for women across the country.
The American Women Quarters Program is an initiative that highlights 20 remarkable women over four years. These women have left a mark on American society and paved the way for modern-day women. Because of their groundbreaking achievements, American women today can achieve great things.
The Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Quarter honors one of the most inspiring women whose life story continues to inspire us and future generations. She fought to practice as a surgeon in the U.S., was brave on the battlefield, and advocated for women’s rights and suffrage. Because of her, women are not punished for how they dress.
As we reflect on the significance of her inclusion in the American Women Quarters Program, we are reminded of the importance of honoring the contributions of trailblazing women who have helped shape our nation. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker’s legacy serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration, reminding us of our potential to effect positive change in the world.
Quarter Obverse Inscriptions
In God We Trust
Quarter Reverse Inscriptions
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
United States of America
Medal of Honor 1865
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
E Pluribus Unum
Mint & Quarter Mint Marks
Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco (P, D & S)
Available Quarter Mint Strikes
Business & Proof
American Women Quarter Specifications
Composition in Proof & Business Strike: 91.67% Copper & 8.33% Nickel
Composition in Silver Proof: 99.9 Fine Silver
Clad Weight: 5.670 grams
Silver Weight: 5.641 grams
Edge: Reeded & Number of Reeds: 119
American Women Quarter Artist Information
Obverse Design: Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966)
Reverse Design: Sculptor Phebe Hemphill, Medallic Artist
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